Rosy Thornton‘s The Tapestry of Love follows 48-year-old Catherine Parkstone as she makes her way through the French countryside after leaving her home in England following her divorce. She has bought Les Fenils in the Cevennes Mountains where she gets to know her quirky neighbors and learns how to navigate an unfamiliar culture with her amateur French-speaking skills. Her initial plans are to establish a business as a needlewoman, but also to return to a place she remembers enjoying from her childhood.
Catherine loves working with her hands whether it is on cushions or tapestry or in the garden. The lush scenery and sweet smells of food (check out Thornton’s recipes) serve as the backdrop of this woman’s journey as she learns to cook French cuisine, stand on her own, and carve out a life she can enjoy. Although she is away from her grown children and her sister, Bryony, Catherine begins to make the transition into the community, providing them with well-crafted cushions and other items and companionship.
“It was the view from her kitchen window, the view from the place at the table where she generally sat to work. She knew it so well now by all its lights and moods that she had no need to look up from her tapestry frame; on these quiet midnights she sat and worked from memory in front of the rectangle of black. In her emerging picture, it was morning: not first light but the soft luminosity of a breakfast time in spring, the sun breaking over the head of the valley to the left and outlining every leaf in gold.” (page 232)
From the Bouschets and the Meriels to Madame Volpiliere and Patrick Castagnol, Thornton creates a rounded set of characters to interact with Catherine and bring out some of her best traits, including generosity and compassion. Although Catherine was adventurous enough to leave England and move to the mountains of France, she still has to find her spontaneity and carefree nature, while navigating the bureaucracy of the French government.
Overall, The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton is a novel about living one’s dreams, making new friends, and enjoying life. While there is romance, a love triangle, divorce, and other typical “women’s fiction” topics, Rosy Thornton takes these topics and makes them new by setting them in rural France among quirky farmers and business men and women. Her prose is engaging and detailed, weaving a tapestry of community that readers will want to immerse themselves in for hours.
About the Author:
Rosy Thornton is an author of contemporary fiction, published by Headline Review. Her novels could perhaps be described as romantic comedy with a touch of satire – or possibly social satire with a hint of romance. In real life she lectures in Law at the University of Cambridge, where she is a Fellow of Emmanuel College. She shares her home with her partner, two daughters and two lunatic spaniels. Visit her Website.
This is my 3rd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.